In one of the most sweeping responses to command climate problems in recent memory, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced today that he has relieved or suspended 14 leaders at Fort Hood, Texas, in the aftermath of Spc. Vanessa Guillen's disappearance and murder earlier this year.
Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, deputy commanding general for Support at III Corps, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major, have been relieved of command, according to a separate Army statement. All were among the leaders identified in an independent review launched after Guillen's death and made public today.
The review included nine findings and 70 recommendations addressing major flaws in the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) program at Hood, as well as a "command climate at Fort Hood that that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault," McCarthy told defense reporters at the Pentagon.
"I have determined the issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures," McCarthy said. "Leaders drive culture and are responsible for everything the unit does or does not happen to do.
"I am gravely disappointed that leaders failed to create a climate that treated all soldiers with dignity and respect."
Following Guillen's murder, which family members have said came after she was sexually harassed at her workplace, Army leaders have had to appear before Congress multiple times to answer for the tragedy. Many have expressed outrage, and some Army recruiters in Texas have reported encountering hostility and anger from those who've heard Guillen's story.
McCarthy also directed suspension of 1st Cavalry Commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, the 1st Cavalry's command sergeant major, pending the outcome of a new fact-finding investigation into 1st Cavalry Division's command climate and SHARP program, according to the statement.
McCarthy also ordered the relief or suspension of another nine leaders, down to the squad level, left unidentified by the Army.
"As a matter of policy and to protect individual privacy, the Army will not release the names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action," according to an Army statement.
Army Lt. Gen. Pat White, Fort Hood's commander, will not face any administrative action, because he was deployed to Iraq for 13 months, during which time III Corps was under the command of Efflandt, McCarthy said.
"The tragic death of Vanessa Guillen and a rash of other challenges at Fort Hood forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies and ourselves," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said he will accept all 70 recommendations from the independent review, and has created a "people first" task force that will formulate a plan for all 70 recommendations, which the Army will begin implementing by next March.
"While the independent review focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood the findings contained in the committee's report impact the entire Army," McCarthy said. "This report, without a doubt, will cause the Army to change our culture."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.